Forty-one people signed up to speak at the hearing, and all but one opposed the proposal from the Department of Homeless Services and Samaritan Village, a human services agency.
The $27 million, five-year proposal would renovate an abandoned factory at 78-16 Cooper Avenue into a 125-family housing unit for homeless families with children under 18 years of age. The housing is temporary, giving families a place to live while they find and transition into a more permanent home.
One of the biggest arguments against the facility was the selected building on Cooper Avenue, which many said is inappropriate and unsafe due to its location in the middle of a manufacturing district and its previous use as factory that made dress racks and shoe racks, which may have contaminated the building.
“It is my understanding that this location has been rejected as a potential site for a high school because of the potential contamination in the ground, so why is it even being considered to house mothers and small children or any human being?” Kathy Masi, a Glendale resident and CB5 member, asked.
“Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is a manufacturing area in a manufacturing zone,” said CB5 member Catherine Sumsky. “Factories produce jobs, jobs pay rent. That is the pulse that prevents homelessness.”
In response, Lisa Black, a representative from the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), said that an environmental review was underway.
Others brought up issues of infrastructure, concerned that the area in Glendale could not support another 125 families. Community members expressed worries about the sewage and transportation systems, as well as overcrowding in schools.
“It’s going to basically destroy our already overcrowded schools,” said one Middle Village parent with a child in a Glendale school. “It’s going to also destroy the children that are inside, who are innocent and they don’t know much of the problems that these students are going to bring in.”
These concerns were not eased by promises from DHS representative Black that funding and support services are set aside for school districts serving homeless children.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley attended the hearing and proposed instead that the City of New York invest in permanent housing options, saying that investing $27 million in temporary housing that will not be ready for another two years does not make sense in light of the current housing crisis throughout the city.
She also proposed that New York reinvest in a voucher program for the homeless. Three years ago, the city and the state ended a voucher program that assisted families with rental assistance by giving them about $1,500 a month.
“We need to bring that voucher program back,” Crowley said. “We need to bring it back immediately.”
She also mentioned the criticism of the cleanliness and safety of current homeless shelters, citing the death of a young boy earlier this month who ingested rat poison in a shelter.
“You do not want to live in a shelter,” Crowley said. “Not in the City of New York, not in the conditions that these shelters are in today. We need to fight homelessness by building permanent housing, we need to plan for that today.”
CB5 District Manager Gary Giordano was the last to speak, and he emphasized the strong opposition to the proposal from the Glendale and Middle Village communities.
“We will continue to oppose this,” he said. “We hope that the administration is listening.”
At the end of the hearing, Black told residents that “the contract is not yet final,” noting that an environmental review is still being conducted.
“We’re here tonight to listen to everybody’s concerns to see if we can bring any of these actual items into the proposal to consider should we move forward,” Black said.
She said that the contract has not yet been brought to the city comptroller.
“We are still deliberating because we haven’t had the final environmental review to proceed,” she said. “We cannot proceed until that is finished, and then we would negotiate a rent and associated service cost within that $27 million, and then we would bring the full project to the comptroller.”
She gave no specific timeline for the project, but she did say that the City of New York would like to move forward with the project, which is why they hosted the public hearing in the first place.
After the meeting, Giordano said he felt that the residents of Glendale handled the hearing with grace.
“They were, in my opinion, extremely respectful to the Department of Homeless Services and to Samaritan Village, especially considering how outlandish and irresponsible many of us consider this proposal to be,” he said.
Listing all of the reasons that community members discussed at the hearing, Giordano said he was baffled as to why the proposal is still being considered.
“To me, the proposal and the fact that it got this far is very suspicious,” he said. “Is this a who knows who thing? Who owes a political favor to who? Why would this get this far?”